Today’s largest threat from Al Qaeda is not necessarily in Iraq where recruits for a Jihad against the United States are drying up while Iran drifts towards an outright sectarian civil war. Al Qaeda in Iraq has largely been defeated by the American military and many of the foreign Al Qaeda recruits have left Iraq as quickly as they entered it. This is not to say the Americans are winning in Iraq. We are not: The war is probably already lost, but not to Al Qaeda but to Shiite militants and renewed Baathism that benefited from incompetence of American war planning and the Bremer/Chalibi Administration of Iraq. Today the largest Al Qaeda threat is in the mountains north and west of the Pakistani city of Peshawar and in the province of Balochistan.
The foreign fighters that make up the Al Qaeda forces in this region have largely come from four regions: Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia, Uzbekistan, Indian Administered Kashmir and the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang. Russia's authoritarian Government under Vladimir Putin has until recently persecuted and oppressed its large Muslim minority. Russia's client state Uzbekistan under the despotic leadership of Islam Karimov has stifled dissent within its borders, and much of the opposition has made its way to Pakistan to join in a Jihad. India's mishandling of Kashmir cannot be downplayed. Since 1989 when Afghani mujahideen financed by the United States, China and Pakistan "invaded" the area in order to ferment rebellion, India's Government has made numerous mistakes that have furthered the cause of Jihad. Besides imposing martial law and suspending both Democracy and due process, India has committed numerous human rights violations during the conflict. This has only furthered the cause of jihad. In the Chinese region of Xinjiang the native Uyghurs and Kazakhs have been subject to numerous human rights violations at the hands of increasing Han Chinese population.
The conduct of these three powerful governments (India, China and Russia) and their subordinates towards local Islamic populations is a major root cause of Al Qaeda’s recruiting success. The anger these people have when they join Al Qaeda is not necessarily directed towards the United States or even towards the West. However, when these jihadist recruits are “re-educated” in Saudi funded religious schools or by the local populations their anger and rage turns towards the United States. Itis imperative that Condelezza Rice and the State Department mount a diplomatic effort to engage Russia, India and China about the status of their Muslim minorities, and encourage political reforms. Winning the global war on terror is as much about diplomacy and winning the hearts and minds of local populations as it is about invading and conquering nation states.
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